Controlling Quadcopters With Wireless Mouse Dongles

Last week we gave away a few Crazyflie 2.0 quadcopters to some cool Hackaday Prize entries. This quadcopter ships with the intention of being controlled by your smartphone. But it can also be controlled by a PC with USB dongle and an nRF24LU1+ SOC. [ajlitt] didn’t figure out he wanted the USB dongle (the Crazyradio) that can control this quad until after he used his gift code to claim his Crazyflie quad. No matter; the dongles for Logitech wireless keyboards and mice use the same radio as the Crazyflie and can be modded to make this quad fly.

The board inside the Logitech unifying receiver is a simple affair, with some pads for the USB connector, a crystal, the nRF24LU1+ radio module, and a few passives. To get this radio chip working with his computer, [ajlitt] simply needed to break out the SPI pins and wire everything to a Bus Pirate.

Getting the Crazyradio firmware onto this proved to be a little harder than soldering some magnet wire onto a few pins. The chip was first flashed without a bootloader, a full image with the bootloader was found, after wrangling a single byte into place, [ajlitt] had a working Crazyflie radio made from a wireless mouse dongle. The range isn’t great  – only 30 feet or so, or about as far as you would expect a wireless mouse to work. Excellent work, even if [ajlitt] is temporarily without a mouse.

The Crazyflie 2.0 is available from the Hackaday Store, along with the add-ons if you don’t want to hack your own.

Adding kilometers to a radio meant only for meters

The NRF 24L01+ radio transceiver can be found in a lot of wireless project builds. But it’s only meant to work at a range of a few meters. [Achu Wilson] found that he could greatly extend the range by as much as 2 kilometers. All he needed to do was build this high-gain antenna.

He already had an idea of what he wanted to use the RF link for, so a directional antenna is no a problem. He chose a biquad setup with a back reflector, then used NEC2 to model the design and tweak it for the best performance possible. It only took him about two hours to complete the build, and manages a 10 dB gain. Not bad for some wire and a scrap of sheet meta.

This is the same transceiver chip used in the SNES wireless mod. If only we had a really powerful set of binoculars we could play the extremely long-distance game of Mario Kart we’ve always dreamed about.